With students back to the classroom, they will do so with relaxed quarantine guidelines, more personal protective equipment on the way and rapid tests available on campuses.
The moves come on the heels of state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announcing the state will be sending BinaxNOW Covid-19 antigen test cards for testing teachers and students who exhibit symptoms.
"If the student or teacher tests positive, the school will know immediately, and this will allow a school to move quickly to isolate the positive individual and reduce the spread of COVID," Box said during last week's announcement, adding each school will get details on how to use the test.
One of the biggest changes is quarantining and contact tracing will no longer be mandatory if students and teachers remain at least 3 feet apart and are wearing a mask at all times. Box said quarantining should occur with exposures that will take place at lunch, athletics or extra curricular activities or if students and staff have removed masks.
Shelbyville Central Schools is one district that will be implementing the new guidelines, according to superintendent Mary Harper.
Harper told Giant FM that her district will begin to use the three feet for contact tracing.
"This does not include high risk situations like bus, lunch, athletics, band, choir, show group, cheerleading, classes where students are not forward facing or any time parties are not wearing masks. In these situations, we are required to utilize the 6 feet for contact tracing," Harper said.
Harper said Shelbyville Central Schools has to make sure proper protocols are in place to monitor the safe return of staff and students.
"Several driving factors need to be instituted to ensure proper oversight for the shorter quarantine periods. For students participating in athletics, band, choir or other extra-curricular activities, students will need to wear masks at all times if they are returning early. In addition, the students must be able to maintain the six feet of social distancing at all times while observing practicing or participating. If these requirements cannot be met outside of the classroom setting, the students must complete the entire 14 day quarantine period," Harper said.
In addition, schools will receive rapid tests and the state health department will send out more than a million KN95 masks for teachers and 600,000 children's masks and hand sanitizer.
Harper said Shelbyville Central Schools has asked for KN95 masks for staff, additional masks for students and the tests.
"We will be accepting the BinaxNow Cards. Prior to using the tests, we will establish the proper policies and protocols and clearly communicate when and how they will be used. As we finalize the protocols on the shorter quarantine periods and BinaxNow Cards, we will communicate to our stakeholders," Harper said.
The ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on enrollment at Shelbyville Central Schools, according to Harper.
"We are down about 125 students from last year. Some parents opted to home school or participate in another virtual option. Others decided to wait a year to enroll their student in preschool or kindergarten. We have been able to maintain our enrollment this school year and are hopeful to have some of the students that left us back," Harper said.
Shelby Eastern Schools superintendent Dr. Todd Hitchcock tells Giant FM his district is also in favor of the new quarantine guidelines.
"We hope it limits the number of healthy students we have to keep away from school," he said.
Hitchcock notes the district is still discussing the pros and cons of accepting the tests.
"We are strongly considering giving those back to the health department for them to use as they see fit," Hitchcock told Giant FM.